BARBARA A. KNUTH: --delighted to have you here for this session on Varied Voices. You're going to be hearing about a variety of programs that we have that were recently watching and getting established at Cornell University in terms of really fostering a diverse and successful undergraduate and graduate student body. So I'm really pleased that you're here to hear about the ideas that we have underway-- the new programs, the new people-- and to get your questions and comments and ideas about moving forward with these different initiatives.
I'm Barbara Knuth. I'm Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School. As vice provost, I oversee undergraduate admissions and financial aid. And as graduate dean, I oversee graduate education on Cornell's campus.
I'm very pleased this afternoon to be joined by four relatively new hires. All of these folks have started their positions either in April, July, August, or September. So these are really new folks, not all new to Cornell, but new to their positions.
So what we're going to do is to hear from each of these individuals about the program areas they're working in. And then they'll come down to the panel seats here. And we'll have a discussion with you all.
So what we'll do first is hear from Lee Melvin, who's the Associate Vice Provost for Enrollment, about undergraduate admissions and financial aid. Then we'll hear from AT Miller, who is the Associate Vice Provost for Academic Diversity Initiatives, working strongly at the undergraduate level. Then we will hear from Renee Alexander, who is Associate Dean for Students and Director of Intercultural Programs. And then we'll hear from Sheri Notaro, who is the Associate Dean for Inclusion and Professional Development in the graduate school.
So I'm not going to introduce them each individually as they come up, but let me just tell you a few things about each one of them, so you know who you're speaking with this afternoon. Lee Melvin, as I mentioned, is the Associate Vice Provost for Enrollment. He comes to us from the University of Connecticut, where he was most recently Vice President for Enrollment Planning and Management.
Lee has a music background with a bachelor of music education from Houston Baptist University and a master's degree in music from the University of Michigan. So he's a talented opera singer, although I have not heard him yet. I hear that, so I'm going to have to hear him soon.
AT Miller, who will be the second speaker, is the Associate Vice Provost for Academic Diversity Initiatives. He comes to us from the University of Michigan, where he was faculty director of the Center for Global and Intercultural Study and the coordinator of multicultural teaching and learning. AT has a bachelor's in American studies from Davidson College and a PhD in American civilization from the University of Pennsylvania.
Renee Alexander, our third panelist, became the Associate Dean of Students and Director of Intercultural Programs after serving a number of years as the Director of Diversity Alumni programs in Alumni Affairs and Development here at Cornell. She holds her bachelor's degree right here from our very own Cornell University in American history. She earned a master's from Hunter College and now holds a PhD in education from Fordham University.
And our fourth panelist is Sheri Notaro, who is the Associate Dean for Inclusion and Professional Development in the graduate school. Prior to this, she was either assistant or associate dean for a 10-year span at Washington University and their graduate school. She holds a bachelor's from Washington and Lee University and then three degrees from University of Michigan-- two master's degrees and a PhD in developmental psychology.
So you have a very distinguished panel. And as I said, all of these folks have been in their positions for less than a year-- in one case, just about one month. So they have a lot to share with you about what we're doing in admissions and financial aid and with the graduate student and undergraduate student experience. So I'm going to ask Lee Melvin to join us first-- Lee, AT, Renee, and then Sheri. And then we'll have a panel discussion.
LEE MELVIN: Thank you, Barb, for that introduction. And good afternoon to everyone. Again, my name is Lee Melvin. And I am pleased to be here with you today to present this panel about diversity and access at Cornell University.
So I'm going to get started with my slides, because I know we'd like to have a robust conversation at the end when we're all done here. First, I'll start with what's happening in admissions and financial aid. And as Barb said, I started in mid-September, I would say. So I've just been observing what's going on in both of those offices, those units that report directly through me-- admissions and financial aid.
And I'm getting a very good sense that there is a full commitment from all staff members towards diversity and how we want to interact with all of our students, but particularly with our underrepresented students on this campus. And from the commitment from the admissions side to the financial side, with financial aid understanding, not only do they have a role in the admissions piece to encourage our students to enroll here, but also with that continuing students piece, as they're working with these students through any financial difficulties they have.
Admissions does employ two folks that coordinate these activities. And they coordinated on a wide scale. So they're not the only people doing these programs. But they really expect the entire office to participate in those programs. And of course, there's many programs that will occur throughout our office. And I think we've worked with our alumni closely throughout the country and internationally on doing recruitment programs for all of our students.
One of the things that we must do in admissions, of course, is we need to cultivate a strong applicant pool for the university. And to do that, we can use our traditional tools. And some traditional tools, of course, are purchasing names from the College Board and some of the other college prep areas to get names of students who are doing very well and scoring well just on the exams. And that's when we're only looking at just the numbers part as we start there.
But then there are many other opportunities for us as we try to cultivate this group. And some of the questions we're asking ourselves is, when do we reach down to cultivate these students? And is it seventh grade, is it the eighth grade? So we're starting to explore a lot of those opportunities for us.
And so one of the big ones for us, as you can see on this slide here, is going to be our membership with several national organizations. And we believe that that's going to help us. And this list is not exhaustive.
It's just some of the places that we've worked with, like the Ventures Scholars, of course with our National Hispanic Recognition Programs, and the Ron Brown Scholars. These are scholars that are identified early in the process and identified as students that have very high academic achievement and different leadership abilities. And so we're starting to work with those organizations much earlier on, as we start to cultivate the pool.
One of the things we do, of course, after we've cultivated a pool is really looking at how do we expand the diversity applicant pool. And I say expand as opposed to grow, because grow, yes, if we get a lot more applications, that's going to be fantastic-- so it gives us an opportunity to choose certain students-- but expanding, really looking at the depth that that student brings to this process. So we have a better understanding of the type of student we're trying to enroll here on our campus. And also, we can explain that to our directors of admissions about where these students are coming from, and who they are, they're well-versed in these processes as well.
So here are some of the community-based organizations that we've worked with over the past. And I asked the office to give me a list of some of the ones that they frequent the most. And this will give you an idea of all the different programs out there. And of course, if you're involved in any community-based organizations and you'd like us to take a look at that organization to see if it fits the process that we're trying to implement here, please contact me or contact our director of admissions and provide us with additional information.
So once we have the pool and we've cultivated them, then we start looking at our strategies. And I kept this slide with very few bullet points, because there's a lot more to admissions than just these recruitment strategies. But this gets at the base of some of the things that they've been doing in the past and as I'm looking at the program to see what opportunities are there for us.
As we look at this one, it says, reduce high school visits. That doesn't mean we're not out there visiting, because what we've done is reduced high school visits so we can target certain high schools, particularly the high schools that participate with several of those community-based organizations. So we're looking for a different way to approach our students and to get in there and work with them.
And the big piece for me on this slide really is the folks that-- we educate our primary college advisors and the people that we call the influencers of students. And these are the folks in these community organizations. And of course, their parents are involved with this as well. And any other person that's a mentor for this student, we want to dig deep in these organizations and have them help us with our strategies. So if they identify a student, we can identify that student and advocate for them throughout the rest of the admissions process there.
The other piece, after we've done a lot of our work, of course, we're always looking for, what are the results of some of those strategies and things that have been going on for the last couple of years. This is one just about the applicant pool itself and what's occurred here, particularly from last year compared to the previous year, as we look at the students that enrolled. And as you can see, the big part here-- let me just-- I'm going too fast-- is that we look at this increase here with our students.
This is the enrollment highlights. I'm sorry. I have gone too far over. Let me go back. There we go. Thank you.
So as we look with our students, our underrepresented minority students, the total have gone up about 5.3%. And when you look at our over-applicant pool, it's only increased by a 10th there. So what we're looking at, as we're really increasing our applicant pool to give us additional choices of students to select, we're starting to see that growth in the minority pool, and particularly the underrepresented minority pool.
And there's different groups here. And some may notice and see where it says the multi-URM students, that 5.8% drop, we realized that that drop is occurring across the country, as students have different options, particularly when it comes to checking their Hispanic and Latino background and then how that's counted once it moves into the system. So as it's rolled up into different numbers, that's why we're seeing that reduction there. But we do see a very nice increase in our Hispanic students at any rates there with our applicant pool.
And so from those initiatives-- and this just didn't happen yesterday. I know this university has been working hard to increase the diversity of their students. And I worked with Jason Locke to ask about what's occurring in admissions and how long has he been here. And so he started giving us some history about his timeline here and what he's seen occur.
So this gives you an idea about the application growth that we've realized. Of course, a wonderful application growth in the overall pool, but then as you start to break down that pool to really look at that information with our African-American students, American Indian students, our Hispanic and Latino students, and are multicultural students, we're really seeing a nice increase there. And we want to continue that as well as we go through this process.
And then once admissions gets to work, we always think about our access programs here on our campus. And the financial aid thinks about that. So as we're developing our policies and strategies and working with students, we're trying to understand what's available to our students, both are New York residents and our nonresidents of the state, as we're inviting these students to join us.
Particularly those first generation and low income students, we want to understand what are the programs available to us? Have they been here on the campus? What are the other pre-summer programs available to the students?
And also as we looked at our financial aid piece, reducing that that cap-- the loan cap for students to make sure that, we say, this is your loan cap for you based on your family income-- but then also going and looking at our priority groups. And we have priority groups, where we'll see a student and say, this student really is a priority for Cornell. So how do we get this student to reduce that cap, so the family won't have to take out so many loans and we can still be competitive when we're trying to enroll this student.
And so financial aid has been working hard the last couple of years, working on several initiatives, doing the travel with our peers around the country, but also doing more outreach with students and families and using technology with chats and blogs, but also targeting students that we identify and say, we really need you to explain to this student about the options of financing their higher education, and what we can do and what that means when you say, you will not have a gap in your education-- your finances once we put your package together.
So that's going to be extremely important to us. And they're continuing to work and develop new programs. And we're going to continue to look at that. And we looked at some of our other piece with the Ivy Match and the Stanford, Duke, and MIT piece, as we increase our outreach to those students to explain to them what does the Ivy Match mean to them and what does it mean to us, as we're trying to enroll them onto our campuses.
So after we've gone through all those pieces, then we start getting our enrollment numbers. And we've had a very good year with enrollment, with our underrepresented minority students. And we're excited about that. And we want to retain that. We are seeing fluctuation in yields, when it comes to our African-American students based on the admit pool.
So as we will continue to dig into this data to see what occurs for us with these students, again, you'll see that reduction in the multi-URM students. And that's a reduction, as students continue to identify themselves with other different groups. But right now, we're pretty pleased.
And the one that gives me pause is really what's happening with our American Indian students group there. So we're going to look into that issue and have some meetings scheduled with our American Indian, Native American populations, and their leaders in those programs to see what is it we can do better to try to attract more students here to our campus.
And so then after we've done all of those and with my short time here at the university, I've been thinking about a few goals that I'd like to see implemented and also reached while we're here. And these are just goals for today. Just so you know, this will continue to evolve as I get more information about the university.
But big pieces for me is really as I look at our communication with our schools and college admissions directors. And I think that's important that we continue to explain to them about what we're seeing in the marketplace and how they're working with are different applicant pools and the opportunities available to our students. And they know a lot of this information. So we're excited about that part. And we'll continue to grow that information there.
And also our collaboration with our CBOs, our Community-Based Organizations, we want to strengthen that piece, folks that work with these students daily, so they can provide us with information that we can share to the rest of our folks. And then of course, focus on assessment and sharing data. And as I look to see who has what information, I believe there is some data that we could share to others to enhance how they may review certain files of students. So we want to make sure that that occurs.
And then increase our visibility in diverse communities-- and I think that's extremely important for an institution and based on the resources we have, that you really should be visible. And so people can come up and talk to you about how it works at Cornell the, admissions process, and encourage that student to apply, but also explaining what highly selective admissions means to an applicant, so they don't get discouraged or we don't discourage that community after one of their top students applies and then that person is not admitted.
And then we look at, finally, to seek funds-- additional funds to help us reach our enrollment goals, particularly when it comes to our underrepresented students. That's an enormous piece for us. With the funding, that does help students decide which institution they'd like to enroll in and why they will stay there.
And from the program that I attended last night, late in the evening, speaking with many of our minority students, financial aid came up a lot. And they said they were very thankful for what Cornell has done for them and that they look forward to contributing to this institution when they leave. So that ends my report. And thank you very much.
AT MILLER: [LAUGHS] Should I jump ahead?
BARBARA A. KNUTH: Why don't you go-- do you want to just start? Are the slides in that order? Is that what you're saying?
AT MILLER: Yeah.
BARBARA A. KNUTH: OK, why don't we just--
AT MILLER: Sorry. These are Renee Alexander's slides.
RENEE ALEXANDER: Good afternoon. And thank you for coming. I'm looking around the audience, and I see some very familiar faces. Hi, Jeff [? Burke. ?]
I want to thank all of you who participated in our networking event last night that Lee just referenced. Students were out in grand numbers. And a fun time was had by one and all.
And thank you for engaging our students. The room was certainly diverse. And I'm going to touch on that in just a minute.
My theme here is intercultural Cornell and what does that have to do with access. Lee has very aptly touched on the access piece-- the admissions and enrollment piece, the financial piece-- so once students get here, what kind of environment do they find, what they are exposed to. I'm going to frame my discussion-- wrong way.
This was from a previous presentation. So let me tell you briefly what I'm going to talk about is this whole concept and notions of intercultural Cornell. I'm going to talk about what's going on at 626 Thurston Avenue, our wonderful, fabulous new student space, and what program areas that there, and then close out with some finishing thoughts on what intercultural Cornell means.
I always start my discussions around diversity and the student experience with these four bullet point areas that David Harris helped us frame a couple of years ago-- several years ago-- compositional, engagement, inclusion-- inclusive-- and academic achievement. Compositional, the obvious structural demographic component, it's the most obvious. But it certainly is not sufficient to achieve our diversity goals. We are doing a tremendous job in terms of recruiting and maintaining the most diverse classes in the history of the university.
So once we get them here, how are they engaging across difference. Do they default back to their social, racial, and ethnic groups? Or are we helping them work across all this tremendous diversity? Cornell is a smorgasbord of sorts, a diverse buffet of choices here. And so we need to do a better job, I think, of helping our students work across issues of diversity, now that we have them here and we're trying to engage them.
Inclusion, does everybody feel comfortable? Does everybody feel warm and welcome on this campus? Would you go back to your high school and say, Cornell is the place for me and I think that you should check it out? And then the academic piece, which my colleague AT is going to touch on, do we have students who are just getting by? Or is everyone here able to take advantage of the academic offerings and finish Cornell, not bumping along at the bottom, but doing well and excelling academically?
I'm not going to spend much time on this slide. But what I would like for you to take away from here is how diverse our audiences are, that there is no longer a majority of any racial group here-- we have a plurality-- and that white Caucasian students, the class of 2015, are about 41%. We have about 9.9% who do not identify. So there are probably some white students in that category. But we no longer have a majority here. So it makes for quite a plurality on campus.
This is something that I think we need to pay very close attention to. And I can't see it so well. So let me come out this way.
Is it on? OK. Neighborhoods where student grew up from, you can see the names here, but these are white students, Asian students-- Asian American, I should say, underrepresented minorities, multiracial students, and international students. Why is this important? Because 90% of our white students come from mostly or completely white neighborhoods. However, if you take a look at our underrepresented minorities, about 40% come from mostly or completely white neighborhoods as well. And the flip side is 33% come from mostly or completely nonwhite communities-- quite a mixture.
Look at Asian students. Just over 50% come from mostly or completely white communities as well. But almost 40% come from mostly or completely nonwhite communities. So like I like to tell my colleagues, you don't really quite know who's walking into your office.
I missed one. High School that I attended in terms of racial composition-- again, white students, almost 80% come from mostly or completely white high schools. But half of our Asian students and half of our underrepresented minorities come from mostly or completely white high schools as well. But the flip side is one third of our URMs come from mostly or completely nonwhite schools and about 20% of our Asian students. And look at our internationals, almost 40% come from schools that are mostly or completely nonwhite.
So what does all this mean? The one data point that I don't have up here is the number of students that come come to Cornell who want to engage across difference. About 2/3-- and this is from the freshmen survey, class of 2014-- about 2/3 of our students say that they come to Cornell to engage across diversity. That fact drives my thoughts as we are pioneering these new programs. Students come here looking for it.
So why this is important? Why are we moving in this direction? Because working across difference aligns with our strategic plan of building multicultural competencies in our students. As we approach the year 2015 and our sesquicentennial, we are trying to position Cornell as a global university and create global citizens by way of interacting with each other across difference.
It certainly enriches campus life and impacts a very positive campus climate. And so we want to work on a program that we want to institutionalize that is built for last, helping students work across difference. Like I said, this really drives my thoughts as we are beginning to put these programs together.
Let me shift gears to 626 Thurston Avenue, former Alumni House. I'm sure some of you were there when it was the Alumni House. I'm running out of time already, guys. So I'm going to have to speed this up.
We just moved into this fabulous brand new center. And the programs that are housed there are the LGBT Resource Center; Asian Asian American Center; Alumni Student Mentoring Program; ALANA, which is a programming board and funding board, which distributes about $90,000 a year to basically diverse student organizations.
I am pioneering Student Development Diversity Initiatives, which is the old community component from OMEA, the Office of Minority Educational Affairs. That helps students of color build community. It helps reinforce and support them being comfortable here, being satisfied with their Cornell experience. And we work on issues of leadership, development, and sending students to conferences where they learn to work as a team.
Closing out with this whole concept of intercultural Cornell, it's something that our students want. They are quietly working across difference in their own ways. You have students working together, boards programming that would have been unheard of a generation ago, Black Students United working with Hillel, Center for Jewish Living, Pakistani students working with Christians and Jewish students. They're looking to the university for support and leadership. And they are going to help us pioneer this whole concept of intercultural Cornell.
So I'm going to stop there and turn the mic over to my colleague, AT Miller. Let's see if we you queued up, AT. Oh, yeah. I got to close on this picture, you guys.
You got to like that, you know? This is 1972, and the hair is just not growing that long anymore. Here you go, AT. Thank you, everybody.
SPEAKER 1: Who were the others in that picture?
AT MILLER: [LAUGHS]
RENEE ALEXANDER: I'll tell you that when we open it up.
AT MILLER: Let us be uncomfortable together. Let us depend upon surprises. The unexpected is a place we hope to find most every day. And by the way, we get there moving off the trodden path. What difference makes is wisdom, as knowledge brings the unfamiliar home.
The educated one is all unbounded and is never one, not truly singular as through the curiosity the we flows in and out to all the others who have come to know. Above, below, in front of us, we look behind the simple sign of who we are. We raise a flag, but don't salute before another flag is raised, devoted in our hours and days to signs and wonders, semaphore that by interpretation tells us more about our many selves. Do come in. Don't be our guest. This house is theirs and yours.
So I am here since July 1 directing a new initiative called the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives. We've chosen to pronounce our acronym since wadi means a cool, protected path through the desert in Arabic and Swahili. Our vision is really to take the concept of any student in any study and think about every student in every study experiencing the full diversity of dynamic and stimulating exchange with each other. So having all these any people together, a greatly enriched environment, is when they all know each other, when they interact, as Renee pointed out.
Our mission, of course, is to particularly serve those students who historically have not appeared in higher education. And so our office tries to enhance the experience, so that those students are on an equal footing with the students who often have traditionally been here, who have assumed their whole lives they'd go to college. In fact, some of you are their parents, and you assumed they'd be at Cornell all their lives.
We have a new space in the CCC, which includes a computer lab for our students, as well as a student lounge area and study area. What's nice for me is that this is right outside my own office, so that every day I'm with these students. It's very easy in an administrative role to get separated from the student body.
I'm unlikely to teach this year. And I'm not sure about future years. As you've might have guessed from my poem, I'm in the English department. But being there with the students is such a benefit to those of us who do this work.
We do have some continuing programs that come out of the former OMEA. These include the New York State Opportunity Programs-- EOP and HEOP-- as well as our pre-professional programs. CSTEP is the acronym for the New York State funding. And CPOP is what Cornell funds to duplicate those programs for all Cornell students.
And these are pre-professional opportunities, where students can shadow professionals. It's also an opportunity for those of you in the room. If you would like to have students know about your profession or your professional life perhaps during a few days in the January break or in the summer, we fund students to be able to do that, so that they don't go down the long road of whatever professional school and discover, I don't like that or I didn't know that's what those people do. Or vice versa, they thinking about a field but don't really quite know what it is. And being immersed with a real professional, a fellow Cornellian, opens that door to say, OK, that's exactly what I want to do.
We also, in our office, have a work study fund, where we partner with institutions. In the past, OMEA mostly looked on this as a way to assist our students in their financial aid packages, which is a very important part of this. As an academic unit, we are trying to make sure that those jobs or work opportunities match with the academic program of the student. So we emphasize work with undergraduate research or with community internships, with local agencies in the Ithaca area, as well as putting our students working in offices that also support diversity initiatives around campus-- gender studies programs, ethnic studies, as well as the administrative units like 626 Thurston.
We do have our own student organizations. But these are, of course, the academic and professionally based student organizations. And one of the things our office tries to do is get the leadership of these various organizations across the colleges and departments and throughout the university together, so that they can more effectively use their resources in terms of practice interviews, career advising, all of those sorts of things.
Some of these organizations-- for example, NOMAS is the National Organization of Minority Architects, which actually has very few members on the Cornell campus. It's not a large program to begin with-- all of our architecture students. And so for them to be able to work with other underrepresented student organizations, of course, gives far more bang for their resources and not sort of duplicating efforts in all of the various colleges and institutions.
We're also, as Sheri Notaro will point out in her presentation, trying to link the whole pipeline together. So Lee talked about working with organizations that prepare students before they're on our campus. In the undergraduate phase, we're also wanting our students looking forward to graduate and professional work and have our graduate and professional students mentor people that they see as like themselves, just as our undergraduates will be working with the outreach that Lee does to mentor students in situations that they were in in their high school years.
We have a number of new initiatives going on. We have a lunch series, where students meet successful alumni, as well as graduate students and people on campus who can support their academic efforts. Our program Meeting of the Minds is about getting our students involved with the non-classroom intellectual activity of the university-- so attending graduate colloquia, speakers on campus, performances, charrette where design work is presented.
In all of these settings, very often, especially our first generation college students-- the first people in their families to get higher education-- or our low income students, our underrepresented students are not necessarily comfortable, even familiar with, going to such an event. And so having them go as a group with one of our advisors and then having their own discussion after observing the discussion that happens at the event often is a way to demystify how these things happen on campus and to understand that participating in these things enhances your academic work. It isn't a time-waste or drawing you away from your homework and those kinds of reading.
But it actually can stimulate that, as well as being a social environment. So getting used to the social environment of intellectual life is something that undergraduates often miss. And we think it's really important for those students to excel, because one of our missions is really to have the students in our programs at the very top of Cornell classes.
Renee already spoke about this. But we want to see our students receiving fellowships, honors, internships to go out of here with Eisenhowers and Marshalls and Rhodes and Fulbrights, and not simply struggling to survive in Ithaca. So we're really looking to enhance the way we bring these students together, so that they really know each other and can be cultivated for these honors.
It often takes one or two years of preparation to really be a great candidate for these. And we want to have that capacity in our office. We're actually hiring an assistant director to be in charge of this right now, so that those students are identified early and interacting well with all of the students who are part of OADI programs.
We're putting in a proposal for McNair grant. McNair is a federal program that recruits and stimulates students who are underrepresented in graduate fields to go on for PhDs. Our graduate school already receives a lot of McNair Scholars. But we don't have a McNair program ourselves on our campus.
We're going to be broadening our outreach to make sure that what state programs are so effective at helps our students who don't come from the state of New York. And some of these look-alike students come through various programs that Lee has already identified. We're looking to build our capacity in terms-- we now have our research capacity within our office, working on identifying early the first generation college and low income students, to support undocumented students.
And the Center for Teaching Excellence also reports to me. And that's for a very strategic reason. We don't want to just adapt our students to Cornell. We want Cornell and our classrooms and our faculty to build the capacity, to teach inclusively, to have a curriculum that reaches all students, and to use the most effective method, so that everyone benefits from this interactive climate.
I just want to close by describing, we're looking to have an intergroup dialogue project, where for academic credit, students are actually getting together across difference, really probing deeply into social structure, privilege, power in our society, how it isn't just you determining yourself on this campus, but it is the eyes of each other and the ears listening to each other that looks towards what the future can be in your academic career. And so we're excited that a program based in academics for credit will be a major contributor in shifting the climate and building intercultural skills in our students, so that when they leave Cornell, they can hit the ground running with strangers anywhere in the world that they find themselves. Thank you.
SHERI NOTARO: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm glad to be here with you today. I'm glad to follow with my colleagues Lee and Renee and AT. We've been working very closely together, and we will continue to do so.
So I'm going to talk just a bit about graduate students and underrepresented graduate students in particular and helping to foster their success and their achievement. So I'm going to focus in on three areas today that I think will really be important in trying to describe to you our programming. First of all is access and recruitment, funding and affordability, and student support and academic achievement.
So first of all, we are going to talk a little bit about funding graduate students. And at the graduate school, we have several layers of funding that's really designed to support our students. So first-- oh, sure. I'm going to use this mic. Apparently, I'm a little too low here. Is that better?
SPEAKER 1: Fine.
SHERI NOTARO: So first of all, we have funding for recruitment visits. So students who are underrepresented can come to Cornell in the spring semester and visit the departments and the fields and really get a sense of what we have to offer. And the fields can request funding for these visits. Additionally, we do have funds to fund me to go out to recruitment fairs and faculty to go out to recruitment fairs and meet our prospective students and start to develop those relationships.
The second type of funding is really designed to provide support and a firm academic background for our students who are coming in on diversity fellowships. And so for new PhD students, we do have funding through provost scholarships that will fund two years of stipends, summer awards, and student health insurance. And the graduate fields then guarantee the remainder of the funding.
And in order to be eligible for these fellowships, our students need to talk about diversity and how they can really best meet diversity here in an essay format. And so they talk about several types of criteria, including being from a disadvantaged background, first generation college student, or member of a historically underrepresented group in higher education.
And then for our continuing students who are already here and who are quite advanced in their program, we do have a Provost Diversity Fellowship. And that is one semester of funding. And that really is for our students who are just about finished but need about one more semester to finish up. And that does carry a living stipend tuition and student health insurance. And the same criteria for diversity applies for both our fellowships-- for the new and the continuing.
So next, I want to move on and talk just a little bit more about supporting our students in terms of retention and completion and really academic success and making sure that our students are successful while they're here. So one of the things that we really focus on is enhancing professional development opportunities. So we want our students to do things that are creative, such as going to diversity conferences where they present their work when they are amongst a peer group that they don't usually get to see. Many times, our underrepresented students or only one in their department, in their lab.
So when they go to conferences, such as the Edward A. Bouchet conference that was really founded by Yale and Howard in 2005 to honor Edward A. Bouchet, who was the first African-American to receive a PhD, and he received it in physics in 1876, we induct students into this prestigious honest society. And they're able to present their work and to meet peers and to really network with hundreds of other students like themselves. It's a very uplifting event for them and allows them to see really what is possible in their professional lives.
The other thing that we're really interested in doing is bringing our graduate students together in symposia, where they can present their work to a wide variety-- a wide audience, who are not specialists in their field. And it gives them the opportunity really to talk to nonspecialists. And this is not something that they typically get in their graduate program.
They're very used to talking to professors and other graduate students who are specialists and know exactly what their topics are. But when they have to talk about their work to someone in biology, let's say, and they're a humanist, it really does open up their ability to talk about transferable skills, to talk about their work in this different setting. And so that's something that we want to work with undergraduates and postdoctoral fellows and faculty and to bring together this different array of professionals to talk about their work.
We're also very interested in mentoring. As AT said, we really want to pursue a developmental model of mentoring, so that we have graduate students offering mentoring to our undergraduate students, such as those in the OADI program, also Mellon Mays undergraduate students. We want graduate students to mentor each other through peer mentoring. And we want to receive mentoring through relationships with postdoctoral fellows, such as the new Mellon Mays Postdoctoral Fellowship program, and also to receive mentoring from faculty and alumni.
Also, we're going to partner with OADI. As AT mentioned, we're going to have graduate students participating in the Tuesday lunch series to talk to our undergraduates about graduate school, to make it more accessible for them, to make them understand that it's very possible for them as well to attend graduate school, and to talk about funding options.
We're also going to be hosting seminars, panels, and workshops. We have a panel coming up next week called Making the Transition to Graduate School. And that is for our first year, underrepresented students to really give them a sense of tips for success and how to really navigate graduate school. And that will be a panel discussion with our current underrepresented graduate students.
So basically, that is just a little bit about what we're doing with graduate school and our underrepresented students and really trying to make sure that all these pieces are in place-- the access, the funding, and the student support. Because when our students leave here, we want them to be successful. We want them to be able to access careers. We want them to be able to give back to their community and to get back to Cornell. Thanks.
BARBARA A. KNUTH: So again, I'm just very delighted to have this group of experts here with us. It's phenomenal what they have underway already. I'm hoping that many of you who were here at Cornell a long time ago are sensing that there are some real differences that are going on at Cornell. We're delighted to have you here as our ambassadors out to the rest of the world to spread the good news about what it is that we have going on here at Cornell and how we're improving our support and experience for both undergraduate and graduate students.
So with that in mind, I'd like to open it up for your questions and your comments. And I think we have two mics here, so that the folks can respond to yourself. Yes, go ahead.
AUDIENCE: Hi. My question is for Lee. I read an article recently that questioned the notion of diversity in college environments and gave the example of the shifting demographic of black students increasingly being from very affluent immigrant populations and whether that really benefits the black community or the resources should be used elsewhere.
When looking at diverse classes, is a black student a black student a black student? Are they all the same? Or is there really a push to use those resources to help students who might use that education to benefit their families and their communities and might not otherwise access the education?
LEE MELVIN: OK. Thank you for that question. Yeah, I think there's some-- The answer is yes both, I would say. And when we are evaluating applications, we really are looking at the student's background. And we prefer to do a holistic review of an applicant.
And so if they are an African-American student, if their African-- a background from Africa, like say, Nigeria or Ghana-- I don't think we would want to separate them as if we were to say just race in general as black. I didn't have a chance to review that article. I've reviewed others that have mentioned this same notion that with the affluent African-Americans and those with less income, are they taking the place of students, or having some advantage. And I think if we look at the short term impact of that, some may say, yes, that some people are working the system, as they would call it.
But I think when we look at the long term impact, particularly in our country and in our world, particularly for people of color in America, then I don't think that we would want to take something away from another student just because they've had some advantages in their life, that we are still looking at diversity from different lenses. And we need that socioeconomic diversity. We need that intellectual diversity.
And as we continue to work with our student populations, we're looking to see which students can achieve in a highly selective institution. And then those students are going to be from varied groups. And we have that from all races.
It's not just our minority races. But it's from all races there. So it could be-- the answer is, yes, I would say, as you mentioned on both. But I don't think we should discourage any applicants from applying or change our review process based on their heritage.
BARBARA A. KNUTH: Let's go back there. And then we'll head towards the middle.
AUDIENCE: I'm thinking about my experience from the '80s when freshmen arrived, and West Campus was predominantly white, and North Campus was everyone else and how now everyone sits on the Hill, on North Campus. And then I see-- I guess from Renee-- some of the information on the-- at least, the experiences as described by the students when they arrive in terms of their neighborhoods and the demographics of their school. And I think about how the job that you've done, increasing the number of visible minorities on campus.
And I say to myself, wow, you've brought them all in, but how do you get them to interact in a way that is meaningful in a way that doesn't force this wonderful opportunity to fall in on itself, because we as humans tend to want to be around others who have similar views, thoughts, experiences? And in the tradition of Cornell, where we tend to do that, or we tended to that over the years, that must be a great paradox you're trying to solve there. So I'm interested in how you were addressing that, both theoretically and practically.
RENEE ALEXANDER: I'll start, and I thank you for that comment and for your observations. When I was a student here in the early 1970s, describing this intercultural concept and moving students together who wanted to work together would have been virtually impossible. You are from the '80s?
RENEE ALEXANDER: OK. You're a little younger than I am.
Cornell is a different place. And as we described, compositionally, we're doing a remarkable job. But from an engagement standpoint, we get these students here, what can we do to get them more involved-- cross-pollinating, so to speak?
There are a number of student initiatives that are going on right now that are organic. They are from the ground up. And there are students who are doing this on your own.
They're quiet. To the casual eye, when you walk across campus, you may not see it. But for someone who's on the ground working with students, we see it on a regular basis.
So I'd like to say that students are demanding difference. They are pushing the envelope. They are breaking down barriers. And they're doing it on their own. What my suggestions are is to build some structure and support around this, to help students, to let them lead, but also let us lead so that they may learn.
[INAUDIBLE] and AT didn't-- he was not able to dwell on it for too long, but I'm going to give the mic to him in just a minute, so he can talk about this course that we're going to be offering hopefully in the near future, which is designed-- It's academic, it's for credit. We hope to engage about a thousand students a year? Let me let you get into that. Let me let him do the numbers.
But we do have students come in here, in spite of these racial differences that they're coming from, the high schools or their neighborhoods that they live in, they really want to come here to experience difference. This is a very different generation. And they are pioneering this on your own.
When you look around the cafeterias, do students default back their racial and ethnic groups? Yes, on the surface. But there are lots of examples of students, like I said, doing this on their own. And we are one step up and take more a leadership role in helping them work through these issues and connect across difference. Let AT add to this, and we'll get to you, Dean.
AT MILLER: So just briefly, I think that was is exciting is not only are students demanding it, of course, employers and graduate schools are saying, do you have the intercultural skills to work in our environment, to work across the world? And students know this. So it's both a personal curiosity-- they come to Cornell saying, it's a diverse place and I want to learn from that-- but they also know, these skills I've got to have.
And so the point of the course is we would serve about 200 students a semester in small groups working with a professor, a curriculum, but peer-facilitated and really explore it in an intense way how to really listen to each other, to talk about personal experience, relate it to each other, but also see in these groups, which not only at the beginning of a semester might be a dialogue between men and women, suddenly realize, oh, when you said women, I didn't know you meant two Asian women would be there.
They suddenly see the many facets and everyone's identity and start connecting through those varied facets of each other's personal background, as well as the things they're reading, studying, experiencing through sort of experiential workshop type experiences. And all of these dialogues end with an action project. The students are writing a paper, but they're also expected to do something as a group, as a result of what they're learning from each other. So we think this can have a very transformative effect on the campus.
BARBARA A. KNUTH: Let's do one here, and then we'll move over. Yeah, go ahead.
AUDIENCE: My question kind of goes on what you were asking. Our son is a freshman in Dickson. He's made two good friends in Ujamaa. And one is black and one is white, their roommates. Both of them said they didn't request that dorm.
And he-- my son just expressed surprise that they had the dorm, Ujamaa, which he said was predominantly black. And I guess I'm just wondering, do you think that hinders trying to get people to interact better? Or is it there because there's like a comfort area for students who want to be there? Like, how do they get placed in that dorm?
RENEE ALEXANDER: How do students get placed in Ujamaa? Some of them request it. And Ujamaa is a program house that is-- I guess, it espouses the African diaspora experience.
There are black students that live in Ujamaa, because they grew up in overwhelmingly white neighborhoods, as that statistic that I showed you. And they want the experience learning more about Caribbeans and people from the continent of Africa and the African-American experience. There are Caucasian students and others-- Asian students who are placed there, just because it's a room and we don't have enough space in other residence halls. So your question is--
AT MILLER: Does it hinder interaction.
AUDIENCE: I guess, I just wondered if you think having a dorm like that, if that hindered the students interacting together. I have to say, both boys have liked being in Ujamaa. My son enjoys spending time [INAUDIBLE]. That was just interesting to me that [INAUDIBLE].
RENEE ALEXANDER: Most students self-select to be there. And does it hinder? In my personal view, I would say, absolutely not. That's like saying, a black student living in say, Dickson, where the students are overwhelmingly white hinders interaction among people of color or white students interacting with black students.
So this campus is open. And people will find their way to their communities. In fact, my personal experience with white students that have lived in Ujamaa is that it's a transformative experience for them, that they experience difference.
They know what it's like to be a minority, often something that they have never seen experienced before. So I personally could defend Ujamaa's right to exist, having lived there my freshman year, fall semester of my freshman year and met some of my closest friends. Yes.
AUDIENCE: I live there. And I have to say, it's kind of a validation when you live there where people that are not of color come there to learn about your culture, when your life you've been forced to blend in and accept other people's cultures, the majority. So it kind of makes me feel good when people start defending and espousing our culture and our beliefs and whatever we do, and they come to our residence to do so. And so it makes me proud to be-- that I'm part of this community, where there's people that actually value what I value.
BARBARA A. KNUTH: Let's go back there. Yes. OK, you, yes.
AUDIENCE: First of all, [INAUDIBLE]
And I would [INAUDIBLE] That having been said, some of the statistics up here, Renee, I was kind of in your year, not quite, but pretty close.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] earlier than you.
AUDIENCE: My question is, having been involved in the university a number of years and coming to a lot of these presentations, what we always see is snapshots. What I don't see and haven't seen are historical numbers and the anecdotal where the discussion is that back after the Straight takeover, we had a lot more African-American students than we have now. I don't know if that's true or not. It could be a myth, and it could be true. [INAUDIBLE] first of all, hopefully next time, I'd like to see some kind of trend analysis. And the second thing is, what is the truth [INAUDIBLE]?
RENEE ALEXANDER: I can tell you that the data from the late '60s into the early '70s is not as crisp and concise as it is today. And in fact, the university did not collect accurate data on race back then. I did hear Jeff Lehman, a former president of the university, get up in front of my class at a reunion event in June of 2004. We had a joint meeting of all students in my class. And Jeff made a public statement that the class of 1974 was the largest class of in African descent in the history of the university, which made sense, because the Willard Straight Hall takeover in some ways drove admissions for the next few cycles.
But it was also admission's philosophy that was gaining in strength, as we admitted more African-American students in the late 1960s into the 1970s-- the early '70s. The data is hard to come be, because, like I said, records were not kept as accurately as they are today. But that is the university's position, is that the class of '74 and the class of '75 were the largest classes of African heritage in the history of the university.
AUDIENCE: But what about 1980, for example, [INAUDIBLE].
AT MILLER: It dropped. Nationally, the largest class in higher ed was 1977. So it happened nationwide. And then there was a steady drop during the '80s, a recovery during the '90s.
AUDIENCE: And, Renee, maybe next time, if you could have whatever that you have, it would be interesting to see.
BARBARA A. KNUTH: Right.
RENEE ALEXANDER: I couldn't agree more.
BARBARA A. KNUTH: And I think that's an important point, because Renee made a comment about President Lehman's tenure. But it's been a while actually since President Lehman was president. And we have seen some shifts in enrollment. So I think your point is well taken. But we have had some changes even since that time.
RENEE ALEXANDER: That number was about 275 for the class of '74, by the way.
BARBARA A. KNUTH: Go ahead.
AUDIENCE: I think this is a wonderful forum. And I'm really excited that [INAUDIBLE] But my students have a lot work to do. And I don't hear any effort being made to get my students to be more comfortable and involved in the multicultural community. And that troubles me, because we do have to make progress on that too.
AT MILLER: Yeah. There are many white students both in CCC and especially where Renee is doing her work. And intergroup dialogue program is entirely predicated on, this is the program where every student at Cornell is involved with our centers. But Renee can expand on that.
RENEE ALEXANDER: I can. And thank you for bringing that up. That is a critical point, that as we get more involved in this intercultural dialogue, this intercultural concept of students coming together across difference, white students are deeply and integrally involved in this. Without them at the table, this is just a bunch of students of color talking to each other and getting together.
The leadership of Student Assembly and a number of student organizations, including Cornell Hillel, the Center for Jewish Living, and other mainstream organizations, are very deeply engaged in this talking across difference, engaging across difference. And will there be some tension? Certainly. Will there be some assumptions about people that have to break down? Absolutely. But white students are at the table. And they are driving the bus.
AUDIENCE: I'm a trustee of Cornell Hillel. And I do know that Hillel is deeply involved. But I [INAUDIBLE] that other groups of white students are equally involved.
RENEE ALEXANDER: And as I said, it's a very quiet movement that if you were on the ground that you would be much more engaged and in tune with it as I am. But students are very, very-- and the leaders. I'm looking for leaders.
AT MILLER: The Student Assembly.
RENEE ALEXANDER: The Student Assembly is deeply involved in this and others. And so being a Cornellian from old school, it's really a delight to be here and see this happen organically from the ground up. Students really, really are driving this. And we want to put the structure and support around it.
BARBARA A. KNUTH: Let's do one here. Yeah, go ahead.
AUDIENCE: Lee, you mentioned the use of chat rooms and vlogs to connect with, I think, accepted students. Does the university have a strategy to leverage social media to connect with more diverse communities, generate interest, and push information out to them?
LEE MELVIN: I can't answer that question in depth today. But I am investigating where our social media strategy is at this time. I do know the offices of admissions and financial aid have implemented several social media programs to help them reach students.
One, for example, I will start with the Zinch product that they use to reach some international students. The other programs that they're working with, of course, through Facebook and other opportunities for them. And as students form their own groups in those environments, the office is working hard to be involved in this as they're invited. But I can't give you all the other details, because I'm still just starting to cover some of the pieces there.
BARBARA A. KNUTH: Let's do one more question. Yeah, go ahead. You haven't had a chance.
AUDIENCE: Yeah. So I thought it was really interesting in trying to do-- putting together all of these groups and everything. But I'm wondering-- and it's maybe a little bit-- I want a little more clarification as to what do you do to encourage the predominantly white either social groups or whatever the unions are here at the school that are predominantly white to actually choose not to be so predominantly white.
And what do you do for students that are minorities to encourage them to go out and integrate, because I think a lot of the problems are that the students also feel intimidated. And I know this firsthand, because I met with a scholarship student just the other day. And this is a person that is social and bubbly and she's extraordinary. And she said that she really did feel-- although she's very involved, she felt discrimination. She really did feel a pushback.
And when she was looking to join a predominantly white group, it was her minority counterparts that said, oh, you're going to have a bad experience and you shouldn't do that. She did it anyway. She had a great experience but still that feels this tension. So what can we do to help the minority students just get out there, take the chances, right, and go into these predominantly white groups, the Greek groups-- right? The Greek sororities or fraternities or whatever, whatever the different associations are and how can we get them sort of to be more accepting in those?
AT MILLER: Well, I think, as we mentioned, there are a fair number of students who are really being active about this. I just-- [COUGHS]
RENEE ALEXANDER: These tensions are going to exist. There's no question that we are breaking down barriers that have existed for a very long time. There are old attitudes that have to be shattered and removed. And they will take time.
However, the kind of movement that I'm describing to you is happening now, it's happening in many different population groups. There will be some pushback. But what I envision is students sitting down and working of this and us putting the research and the theory and the support and the structure behind these programs, as we move forward. And this is going to take some time. But it's a fascinating movement to be a part of.
And again, I'm not surprised to hear reports like that. That's going to happen. But the movement is going. And because it's organic. The students are doing it now. And there will be those that are not going to be on board with it.
AT MILLER: And I think that students are also looking for a more natural and structured way to do this. You know, what becomes tension-filled is a student who sort of plops down next to somebody and says, oh, I'd like to get to know you, or what's life like on the reservation? You know, I think I got to go to class right now. I mean, that's a very awkward encounter.
And so providing a structure that makes it, oh, OK, there's a natural way to do this, there is an organic way to be involved, to learn about each other, to go to an event at Ujamaa, to have these places around campus where it's expected. But I think there is-- we can't move Cornell out of the United States and the social structure that exists around them or out of those high schools or neighborhoods they come from. So that is going to exist.
But I think that other universities are really experiencing a great deal of pressure from employers. There are employers who have told major universities, we won't recruit your students anymore, because they come out of here and they mess up our workplace, because they don't know how to deal across difference. And I won't name names, but I do know the corporations and I do know the universities where that's happening.
Students know this. They're increasingly hearing that in an interview-- and they're not being asked, what is your personal attitude. They're being asked, how can you demonstrate that you are skilled at working with varied people? And they have to be able to say, I went to this conference, I was in this organization at Cornell, I took these classes. And so providing those, as Renee said, in some ways, we're sort of behind what the demand is among our students and among the people we expect to get great graduates from Cornell.
BARBARA A. KNUTH: Just mindful of time, I want to thank you all for attending. I think our panelists are able to stay for a few minutes more. So if you'd like to come down and have one-on-one conversations, please feel free to do that. And also, please help me thank the panelists [INAUDIBLE].
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October 21, 2011 panel discussion of Cornell's initiatives to attract diverse student populations and focus on access and affordability.
Panelists: Renee Alexander '74, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Intercultural Programs; Lee Melvin, Associate Vice Provost for Enrollment; A.T. Miller, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Diversity Initiatives; and Sheri Notaro, Associate Dean for Inclusion and Professional Development, Graduate School. Moderated by Barbara Knuth, Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School.
Varied Voices is an extension of the Cornell Mosaic diversity initiative.